I mean, maybe it’s just me, but when it comes to dealing with the monthly occurrence that is our periods, even though our vagina is very much involved, it’s rare that I will see content that is centered around that body part alone (relatively speaking). Sure, I read period hacks fairly often, but — what I mean is, where are the articles that are devoted to prepping and loving on your vagina and vulva specifically so that your period can be a lot less…intense?
A wise person once said that if you don’t like something, instead of complaining about it, why not do it yourself? Indeed…INDEED. So today, in honor of our vagina (and vulva) and all that it goes through every time our cycle rolls around, here are 15 ways that you can get it ready for the…well, inevitable.
1. Buy Unscented Pads or Tampons
I’ve said before that I wish that I had known about menstrual cups YEARS ago. Since I’ve been using one, I’ve pretty much only relied on pads on my heaviest days (as backup). Yet even during my tampons (in my 20s) and pad seasons, I’ve avoided all of the scented stuff. My vagina is pretty sensitive all on its own, so fragrances and dyes don’t help it one bit. I’m not alone, either.
Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highly recommends that, if you want to keep your pH balance where it needs to be, the less chemicals on your menstrual products (and in your toilet paper), the better. A cheat sheet on how to find the best ones is to look for what is branded as being “organic.” You can also read up on some Black-owned menstrual care brands here and here.
2. “Trim the Lawn”
When you’ve got a real bestie, you tend to talk about everything — TMI ish ‘n all. One of mine, we sometimes debate “to go bald or to keep” when it comes to pubic hair. Me? I’m Team Keep, although I do wax the “outer perimeters” and bikini line on a consistent basis.
I also try to keep things like a golf course (as one of my friends says. LOL); especially when my period is about to come on. Not only does it make me feel fresher, but it makes — let me pick something not super graphic — unraveling from any blood remnants so much easier to do every day (until my cycle ends).
3. Apply a Carrier Oil
If your vulva (the outer part of your vagina) tends to feel either irritated (from the blood) or dry (if you do wear a menstrual cup or tampon), you can protect that part of your body by applying a carrier oil; especially at night (when you may not be changing your menstrual products as much).
If you’re concerned about which ones could end up doing more harm than good (as far as irritation is concerned), check out “So, Here Are The Carrier Oils That Will Take Your Sex Life To A Whole 'Nother Level” when you get a chance. It lists 12 oils that your vagina will embrace instead of repel. Personally, I’m a carrot seed oil fan; the Vitamin E in it is quite soothing.
4. Up Your Hydration
How much blood you lose during your cycle kind of varies per person (although if you bleed through a tampon or pad every 1-2 hours or for more than seven days consistently, you may have what is called menorrhagia; you should definitely speak with your doctor). What does apply, across the board, is the loss of blood can lead to dehydration, intensified period cramps, bloating, and hella-fied fatigue.
So, when you feel PMS coming up, ramp up your water intake. It really does help to make all of these issues…less of one.
5. Take More Probiotics
Something that typically happens right before your period begins is the progesterone levels in your body increase. That’s because, if you were to get pregnant, progesterone is what helps to prepare your uterine lining to support your pregnancy. When you don’t, in order for the lining to shed (which is basically what having a period is all about), progesterone levels must shift.
All of this “shifting” can result in you experiencing digestive issues — including (sometimes) constipation (or going to the bathroom more than usual). Not only that, but periods can also put quite a bit of stress on your body as well. Plus, yeast infections come when bad bacteria overtake good bacteria (and you can get a yeast infection at any time). Something that can help with all of this is taking a probiotic.
Honestly, since probiotics also help with improving your gut health, keeping you energized and in a good mood, and even reducing belly fat, it’s best to incorporate one into your daily health regimen. You can take probiotics in supplement form. Also, some foods that are high in probiotics include fermented ones like yogurt, pickles, and cheese.
6. Buy an OTC Antihistamine
Now here’s something that I bet you didn’t have on your period prep bingo card. Did you know that if you take an over-the-counter antihistamine right before your cycle, it can somewhat decrease your blood flow during it? The thought process here is that the natural histamine that’s in your system will elevate your estrogen levels around the time of your cycle which can lead to more shedding of your uterine lining.
So, while tossin’ back Claritin pills like it’s candy isn’t recommended, having one or two on your heaviest day could provide a bit of (flow) relief.
7. Enjoy Some Phytoestrogens
On the flip side, towards the end of your period, your estrogen levels will drop. Because low estrogen can result in symptoms like irritability, tender breasts, a lack of concentration, vaginal dryness, and even dry skin, it certainly can’t hurt to consume some phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogen foods). Some of those would include dried fruits, berries, garlic, cabbage, collards, and wheat bran.
8. Eat Iron-Rich Foods
There is a lot of iron in your red blood cells, and since blood is what you’re losing during your period, eating some iron-rich foods is highly recommended, too. In fact, you might be surprised to know that when you have an iron deficiency, it can affect your libido and lubrication levels and even your ability to have orgasms (chile). So yeah, definitely get that iron in. Some foods that are loaded with it include red meat, quinoa, beans, turkey, and broccoli.
9. Consume Less Sugar
If you’ve ever wondered why you suddenly want to eat everything sweet that you can get your hands on right before and during your period — well, not only can you put that on your hormones fluctuating, but sweet and starchy foods can also give you a “hit” of serotonin which can happily put you in a happier state of mind. Problem is, that sugar can increase inflammation and inflammation can make period pain worse.
Not only that but speaking of yeast infections, if you’ve never had a yeast infection during your cycle, LUCKY YOU. Even though period blood alters the pH balance to where symptoms related to one can also decrease, the yeast will be waiting on you once the bleeding stops — and yeast literally feeds off of sugar. So yeah — junk food in moderation, please.
10. Load Up on Condoms
If you’re down for period sex, there are a few reasons why it’s best to have your partner use a condom (if he’s not doing so already). One, the prostaglandins in your partner’s sperm/semen could actually trigger cramps (because some vaginas are very sensitive to them). Two, because sperm can live inside of your vagina for up to five days. If your cycle is all over the place…yes, you can get pregnant while on your period. And third, blood doesn’t stop STIs/STDs from being transmitted. So, if you are running low on rubbers, now would be the time to pick some up.
11. Prepare to Take Showers…Unless
Even though a warm bath can actually help to soothe your menstrual cramps, if you’re a heavy bleeder, you’re gonna be attempting to wash yourself with blood in the water; that’s why showers are probably best (at least on your heavy days). There is a workaround for this: put a menstrual cup or tampon in before getting into the tub.
Showers are totally my thing, so this tip doesn’t apply to me personally. However, if you find showering to be kind of “blah,” check out “How To Turn Your Showers Into A Tranquil DIY Spa.” It might just make taking showers your favorite thing about having a period!
12. Avoid Hot Water. Kind Of.
When it comes to this particular point, while drinking warm/hot water can help to soothe cramping, I’m still talking about bathing here. Honestly, hot water isn’t the best thing, period, because it tends to dehydrate your skin. The reason why I say “maybe” in this case is, that if you don’t have a heavy blood flow, you probably won’t care about how hot water increases blood circulation.
Oh, but if you do and you tend to shower/bathe in the morning — don’t be surprised if that awesome “hot time” leads to some unexpected leaks on the way to work. #justsayin’
13. Try Some Aquaphor
If you don’t have a really strong blood flow, you’re a tampon wearer, and it can feel uncomfortable to put them in; applying something like Aquaphor around the entrance of your vagina can make tampons so much easier to insert. Something else that I like about this particular hack is Aquaphor is also a solid skin barrier if your vaginal fluids irritate your vulva during your special time of the month.
14. Do (More) Meditating
Although many health experts are still looking into this, it would make sense that meditation would help with period discomfort. One, because it is a proven stress reliever, and two, there is plenty of data to support that it can help with reducing chronic pain. So, even if you don’t really feel like exercising while you’re on your period (although that can be beneficial for you, too), at least devote 5-20 minutes of meditating. You might not need (so much) Advil if you do.
15. Take Naps
Taking naps leading into your cycle (and during it) not only helps in the fatigue department, but they also help to reduce stress (even if it’s only a 15-minute one). And since yes, you can absolutely stress your vagina out (check out “Ever Wonder If Your Vagina Is Stressed TF Out?”) and piss it off (check out “Welp. Here Are 15 Things That Could Be Pissing Your Vagina Off.”); especially during “that time of the month.”
So, don’t feel the least bit guilty about ramping up your nap schedule. You’re doing your vagina (and the rest of you) a ton of good if you do!
BONUS FOR AFTERWARDS: Wear Your Menstrual Cup an Extra Day
Although I don’t smell anything while I’m on my period, the day right after the flow stops, it sometimes smells almost like…death. I looked up why, and it’s basically because there is still some tissue and bacteria that is still coming out. That’s also why my vulva and vaginal opening would be so irritated. I found a solution: I wear my menstrual cup on that day, too. That way, it can catch all of the drama, and I don’t have to suffer.
So, now that you know what your vagina needs for your period, doesn’t that make everything about how to approach your period seem so much better? Gee, I certainly hope so, sis. With all that you go through during that time of the month, you absolutely deserve it.
Featured image by Volanthevist/Getty Images
Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
Jeff Bergen/ Getty Images
"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
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While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
Feature image by Vladimir Vladimirov/ Getty Images